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  1. #1
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    :banana Saving Money with Food (to dehydrate or not to dehydrate?)

    Hey guys, new to this forum! I'm really excited about doing the AT, but I'm worried money is going to be an issue... I've been looking for the cheapest ways to feed yourself on the trail, and I'm noticing pre-dehydrated meals are NOT the way to go... I read in an AT book that dehydrating and vacuum sealing your own meals are the best option. What are everyones views on that? I was looking at the prices of dehydrators and vacuum sealers, and they are going to cost around $300 total! (But a plus side, my mom cooks a lot and I was thinking the next two months would be a good opportunity to dehydrate meals for free! Not to mention she will probably be prone to cook for me while I'm on the trail )

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    Registered User Vegan Packer's Avatar
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    I dehydrate, but I don't vacuum seal. I just use ziplock type bags. You can always find dehydrators online for about $50 or just above that. Many people buy them, try them once or twice, and then get rid of them after having them sit around, not being used for a long time.

  3. #3

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    instead of vac sealing you can always use mylar bags and O2 absorbers. You can get various size bags (qt, gallon) with or without a zip seal (heat seal them with an iron and resealable on the trail with the zip) and with or without gusseted bottoms. just do a google for discount mylar bags
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  4. #4
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    As your main concern is economics, not dietary restrictions or requirements, be sure to factor in the cost of shipping. A typical thru-hike would require 20 +/- mail drops at approx. $20 postage each = $800 [EDIT $400] in addition to the cost of the food. [Even so, $400 is a lot of postage costs that could go to buy actual food]. It is almost always cheaper and more flexible to buy food as you go. Finding food on the AT isn't a problem. You can get fresh food that way as well, buy what you want when you want it, and if you don't finish you won't have a pile of dehydrated food, or boxes scattered at PO's up and down the trail, and, and, and . . .
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 01-05-2016 at 19:42.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  5. #5

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    If your going to store the dehydrated food for any length of time, I would recommend using the vacuum sealer.

    You can of course, dehydrate in your oven at very low heat, but the energy cost might be larger then a dedicated dehyrater.

    There are other factors to consider. How much food do you want to prepare before hand? What happens if you prepare 5 months of food and end up only hiking for a month? And if you don't prepare all the food in advance, who's going to do that for you as you go along?

    Then you also have to have said meals mailed to you so now you are forced to be in town when the PO is open and time the mailings properly so they get there when you need them. Say you get to town where you mail drop is on Saturday afternoon after the PO closes. Now you have to hang out and spend money until Monday morning. Mailing a lot of packages starts to get expensive too.

    When it's all said and done, your probably not going to save much, and may cost more, by making your own dehydrated meals. Buying food at the Dollar General when ever possible is what most all AT hikers end up doing.

    BTW, I hiked with a guy back in 2008 for a while who had the trail name "Y2K" because all his meals were dehydrated by someone who thought the end of the world would come on Jan 1, 2000. He got pretty tired of them after about a month.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

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    Thanks guys. I think I'll avoid the vacuum sealer and try the O2 absorbers and zip lock bags. Shoot, I didn't even think about how expensive it'd be to ship that much.. really though, $800 just to ship out, not including the contents? That's way too much.. I was expecting about $5/package and about 15-20 drops... I guess I'll whip up a test package and see how much it costs? Thanks for the heads up 4eyed

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    Quote Originally Posted by timsuxx View Post
    Thanks guys. I think I'll avoid the vacuum sealer and try the O2 absorbers and zip lock bags. Shoot, I didn't even think about how expensive it'd be to ship that much.. really though, $800 just to ship out, not including the contents? That's way too much.. I was expecting about $5/package and about 15-20 drops... I guess I'll whip up a test package and see how much it costs? Thanks for the heads up 4eyed
    EXCUSE MY POOR MATH! Make that $400 (20x20) This Dain Bramage is a killer . . .

    Large flat rate Priority box (12x12x6 and up to 70lbs) is currently $17.90, but will increase on Jan 17th to ???. I've heard $19.75 or so. Non flat rate at similar sizes and with normal food weights will typically be equal or more. Standard Post (old Parcel Post) isn't much cheaper (if at all) and cannot be forwarded for free like Priority, besides often being slower and less reliable. You would have to pay to have it forwarded or returned.

    If you're hiking frugally, you can probably hike a long way on $400 in trail food bought along the way.

    Check out this thread and the OP's video http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/show...t=#post2029099 and expenses https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t?pref=2&pli=1 but keep in mind he had lots of help from family/friends with freebie shuttles, lodging, meals along the way

    Also this by Weathercarrot regarding his 2003 hike (factor in inflation) http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/cont...-(Hiker-Advice)
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 01-05-2016 at 19:43.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  8. #8
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    If you really want to be frugal along the trail, get you a book on wild edibles. I just bought a dehydrator but after setting down and crunching numbers and all I don't think this is the way to go for me. So I took it back. I am still going to get boxes shipped to me, but they will be goody boxes. You could do You Tube videos along the way and everyone will send trail magic to you.

  9. #9

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    Alternate thought on cheap food....

    http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/108228-Cold-water-quot-cooking-quot-Finally-reached-the-cal-oz-goal!!-And-it-s-CHEAP!?highlight=


    I've used this after adjusting to 5.5 ounces of cereal and 2.5 ounces of powdered milk. If using.....

    Pack cereal in freezer bag ziplock. Pack powdered milk in quart ziplock. Water mixed with powder fits perfect in quart container.
    Pretty dang good with cold water. Decent with "been in my pack all day" water.

    Other tips...
    Seems to soften cereal much quicker than regular milk does. Be ready to eat as soon as mixing cereal with milk.
    Bring a soup spoon.
    Learn how to drink out of a ziplock without spilling everything on your shirt.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Setsalot View Post
    If you really want to be frugal along the trail, get you a book on wild edibles.
    Good luck with that. You'll starve to death trying to forge for food along the AT. Dumpster diving is more productive, takes less time and energy.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Good luck with that. You'll starve to death trying to forge for food along the AT. Dumpster diving is more productive, takes less time and energy.
    Hiker boxes - the AT's answer to dumpster diving.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  12. #12

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    I have just started dehydrating for my thru and made more than a month worth of hummus (in 6 flavors) for about $60. Of course we will have to add tortillas or something to eat them on. The big difference between sending yourself stuff and buying on the trail will be nutrition/ variety. I plan on doing chilies, curry, Thai dishes and more for dinners. If you can cook a dehydrator may be worth it. I do use a vacuum with O2 packets as I won't be taking off till June.

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    Thanks HDLV, I'd love to get some recipes for those. I've been checking out that MrBabelFish5 YouTube, and he has some pretty great ideas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by timsuxx View Post
    Thanks HDLV, I'd love to get some recipes for those. I've been checking out that MrBabelFish5 YouTube, and he has some pretty great ideas.
    His beef chili mac is great. I'm making his Aztec chicken or jambalaya next.
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    Quote Originally Posted by timsuxx View Post
    That's way too much.. I was expecting about $5/package and about 15-20 drops... I guess I'll whip up a test package and see how much it costs? Thanks for the heads up 4eyed
    I christen thee with the trailname "Rumpelstiltskin" You obviously just woke up from a 25 yr nap.

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    I have both a dehydrator and a vacuum sealer. I got them not because I thought they would save me a lot of money, but becaue in a sense they are big boy toys. They allow me to make my own food, in the manner, flavors and portions that I want, all the while enjoying the DIY preperation for a hike. Then being able to enjoy the fruits of that labor on the trail.
    igne et ferrum est potentas
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  17. #17

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    Dehydrating saves you money on food consumption at home, but the shipping costs do make shipping yourself food, regardless of type, much more expensive than just buying food on the road.

    If you're into saving money, I'd still consider dehydrating, but for at home use; I still have tons of foodstuff, like tomatoes... from last year. I have a large batch of onions I'm getting ready to dehydrate, otherwise I'd be throwing them out. It's a major problem throughout the world https://www.agriland.ie/farming-news...-eu-each-year/

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en:2030509
    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Setsalot View Post
    If you really want to be frugal along the trail, get you a book on wild edibles.
    Good luck with that. You'll starve to death trying to forge for food along the AT. Dumpster diving is more productive, takes less time and energy.
    You mean to tell me you can't supplement your food supply with wild edibles. What are all those people eating berries , getting them from the stores. Dandelions grow everywhere. Cattails are also edible throughout the year just different parts. Daylillies taste like green beans. I have seen pics of chicken of the woods mushrooms that people just walk by they are delish. I wasn't saying to rely solely on foraging, they wanted to know how to cut costs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Setsalot View Post
    You mean to tell me you can't supplement your food supply with wild edibles. What are all those people eating berries , getting them from the stores. Dandelions grow everywhere. Cattails are also edible throughout the year just different parts. Daylillies taste like green beans. I have seen pics of chicken of the woods mushrooms that people just walk by they are delish. I wasn't saying to rely solely on foraging, they wanted to know how to cut costs.
    If one were to do this, they would need to become educated and perhaps even carry an identification guide. Many poisonous plants look like their benign edible cousins. This warning obviously extends to mushrooms as well.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckahoe View Post
    I have both a dehydrator and a vacuum sealer. I got them not because I thought they would save me a lot of money, but becaue in a sense they are big boy toys. They allow me to make my own food, in the manner, flavors and portions that I want, all the while enjoying the DIY preperation for a hike. Then being able to enjoy the fruits of that labor on the trail.
    I absolutely 2nd what Tuck is saying!!! All about making it your way. Do not look to make a killing in savings.

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